The Killers seem intent on using their second album to prove they're weightier than previously thought. But this is a band whose sparkling 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, sold 5m copies because it was bursting with indie-disco stompers; it seems unlikely weight is uppermost in their fans' requirements. The downside of this rather overblown approach is Brandon Flowers' newly deepened vocal quaver (think Meatloaf), which he uses to warble lyrics that aren't nearly as profound as he thinks they are.
The ghosts of Bono and the Boss are everywhere on this album. They're there in the artful, grainy Anton Corbijn photographs on the sleeve, and they're there in the myth-making of the song titles themselves -- and in case you didn't get it, Flowers made sure nobody missed the point prior to the release of Sam's Town, hammering home that he's just discovered the glories of Springsteen every time he crossed paths with the press. Flowers' puppy love for Bruce fuels Sam's Town, as he extravagantly, endlessly, and blatantly apes the Springsteen of the '70s, mimicking the ragged convoluted poet of the street who mythologized mundane middle-class life, turning it into opera.
As Bruce Springsteen explores the gospel-folk of idol Woody Guthrie, a clutch of younger artists have instigated a free-for-all to be king of the grandiose, all-American rock hill. The two obvious front-runners are Vegas upstarts the Killers and Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis sluggers the Hold Steady. Burying the shimmering synth-pop of 2004's rousing multiplatinum debut, Hot Fuss, under a Born to Run-like wall of sound, the Killers assume the role of statement-making crusaders ("I woke on the roadside, in the land of the free ride"), while the Hold Steady prefer hacking it out in the barroom trenches of the Boss' "Jungleland." If neither band registers a definitive Born in the U.S.A.